From lipstick to stock feed: The CWA secretary taking on the drought

The CWA motto is to the point:

Honour to God,

Loyalty to the throne,

Service to country,

Through country women,

For country women,

By country women.

Faced with the biggest drought their region has seen in more than 50 years, the ladies of the Quirindi CWA are mobilising, and 75-year-old Colleen Wills is leading the charge.

"Drought has no respect for person, whether you're rich or poor," she said.

"The fact that a property is worth a million dollars on paper according to the value generally doesn't put bread and butter on their table."

At the Quirindi CWA meeting, a photo of the Queen in her younger days looks over a spread of date slice, lamingtons and scones that display a baking technique honed by decades of country generosity.

There's comfort, stability and reassurance in a finely baked sponge.

Colleen Wills has been branch secretary the past 25 years.

This is the biggest challenge her community has faced under her watch, and she's not about to let them down. She's indefatigable.

For the past few months, Mrs Wills has been working around the clock to coordinate the distribution of donations.

Everything from stock feed to food hampers, cash and even lipstick are being packed and delivered — often to farming families who are too proud to ask for help.

"The important thing to realise is that country women, if they're on the land themselves, they know who's hurting," she said.

Photo This is the worst drought the Quirindi region has experienced in more than 50 years.

Dry crops around QuirindiABC News: Louie Eroglu

Quirindi sits on the edge of the Liverpool Plains in NSW — normally some of the best grazing and cropping land in the country.

Unlike more marginal country, they're not used to dealing with dry conditions on this scale.

People from the city and the country want to help the farmers and they're turning to trusted institutions like the CWA to make it happen.

Staffed entirely by volunteers with personal first-hand knowledge of the challenges drought brings to farming families and to the towns and businesses that support them, the CWA is ideally placed to distribute the generosity of donors.

Unlike government programs, the CWA is free of the red tape and bureaucratic hurdles many of those affected have to go through to qualify for assistance.

Photo Reilly's has been outfitting Quirindi locals since 1911.

Reilly's Menswear

As well as delivering help to individuals and families on the land, the CWA is also handing out money to businesses in town to distribute goods and services to customers in need.

It's a strategy with two great advantages: It keeps the money in town, helping struggling businesses and it also targets the aid. The business owners know who's hurting.

The local supermarket, menswear shop Reilly's and the hairdresser are among those given money.

John Reilly says there are plenty of locals who are struggling.

"I had one gentleman that told me he only had $20 left in his bank account and through the generosity of the CWA, I was able to supply him with a pair of jeans for which he was very grateful," he said.

Dion Patterson runs Lush Hair and Beauty Salon on Quirindi's main street.

"If we can make [our clients] feel a little bit better with the money that Colleen and her CWA ladies have been donating, and know that there are people out there that care, that's just some small little gesture that we can do," she said.

With so much of the country parched and barren and so many farming families struggling to feed their cattle and themselves, the handouts from the CWA might seem insignificant to some. But no-one here underestimates the power of a timely show of support, a kind gesture and a good feed.

That's the message Colleen Wills is spreading.

"If you think people are hurting, take them a casserole, a cake. [Ask them] , 'How are you?' Give them a cup of coffee," she said.

"There's a lot of little things you can do which don't cost a lot of money and show that you care."

Watch Michael Brissenden's report, Proud Country, tonight on Four Corners at 8.30pm on ABC TV and iView.

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